King Charles I of England

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King Charles
King Charles of England

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Charles was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1612. Charles was delicate as a child, though in later life he became quite robust and a good horseman. A studious person, he had interests ranging from theology to plays; he also had a taste for music and painting.

After his succession, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his authority. Charles believed in the “divine right of kings” and thought he could govern according to his own conscience. Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch.

His religious policies, coupled with his marriage to the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France, a Roman Catholic, generated the antipathy and mistrust of Reformed groups such as the English Puritans and Scottish Covenanters, who thought his views were too Catholic. He did promote an Anglicanism more traditionally Catholic than the prevailing Calvinism. He supported the idea of rank in the Anglican church and supported its Bishops, and failed to aid Protestant forces successfully during the Thirty Years' War. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops' Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped lead to his own downfall.

Civil war erupted in England in 1642. Charles’ abduction, trial and eventual execution by fanatical leaders of the army on 30 September 1649 made him a martyr. His handling of the political situation he found himself in has been called inept, but he was not a politician, he was the King, and was faithful to his beliefs and his conscience. Whatever else may be said of him he maintained in private life a character of high moral standard, piety and even of beauty.

BORN: 19 November 1600, Dunfermline Palace, Dunfermline, Scotland.

DIED: 30 January 1649, Whitehall, London, England